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House of Commons Hansard #81 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was spam.

Topics

Veterans AffairsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from citizens across many communities and from all walks of life who wish Parliament to know that they genuinely support and value the contributions of our veterans and that they regard a veteran as a veteran regardless of which deployment or where an individual may have served.

The petitioners join the veterans ombudsman and General Walter Natynczyk in condemning the new veterans charter and the Department of Veterans Affairs for creating barriers to serving Canada's veterans.

Petitioners also demand that existing services, such as veterans hospitals, be mandated to serve modern-day veterans, including the more than 200,000 members of the armed forces who have served in peacekeeping missions since the Korean War.

The petitioners want there to be a full hearing in the House of Commons in response to the issues of pensions, special care, programs, services and the preservation of an independent Department of Veterans Affairs, and that Parliament act to ensure veterans and their families receive the supports they have been promised and to which they are entitled as members of the armed forces past, present and future.

Employment InsurancePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from two weeks ago concerning the extension of the EI pilot projects. There was the eight-month extension and this is a petition that was left over from that.

I want to present this in the House because, even though there is an eight-month extension with the expiry in June, a good deal of this petition deals with the permanent nature, or what should be a permanent nature, of these pilot projects. Pilot projects can last five and a half to six years before we realize whether they are good or bad.

I would like to present this in the House for a response from the government as the campaign starts anew to make these programs permanent before they expire in the middle of June.

Animal WelfarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present two petitions on behalf of my constituents.

The first petition, with almost 150 signatures, is from constituents who want to prohibit the import and export of horses for slaughter and human consumption as well as horse meat products for human consumption. The petitioners believe that Bill C-544 would do just that.

Since horses are not generally raised as food producing animals, the petitioners believe they are likely to contain prohibited drugs that ought to be kept far from our food supply. They also believe it runs counter to our culture to use companion animals such as horses in this way.

Cosmetic PesticidesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from residents of Victoria who support a growing campaign for Bill C-368, a ban calling on a federal moratorium on non-essential cosmetic pesticides.

The petitioners express concern that the autonomy of municipal and provincial governments is being eroded by the gradual transfer of authority by the federal government to corporate interests, in this case the chemical industry. They worry about the way that American chemical giants are using NAFTA's chapter 11 to challenge such pesticide bans across the country.

The petitioners want to be heard.

Copyright ActPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to bring forward a petition from people who are concerned about the misuse of digital rights management to digital locks on copyrighted material. Of specific concern is the move by the government to support the sacrosanct protection for digital locks that will override existing copyright rights that exist for Canadian citizens, educators, consumers, people who buy products and for people who use copyrighted works. They are not able to access them because the digital locks placed on top of them interfere with legal rights.

We know that many of the WIPO compliant countries have dealt with the issue of digital locks by ensuring that those that remain on products are not counterfeited or broken. However, in other WIPO compliant countries they have a balance so that citizens are still able to use and be educated with materials that they have a legal right to.

The Conservative government, of course, has it all wrong in terms of digital rights management.

The petitioners are calling upon Parliament to restore some sense of balance between the rights of creators and ensuring protection for copyrighted works, but also ensuring that we have a vibrant domain where people can actually access works within a digital realm.

Passport FeesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my petition calls upon the Canadian government to negotiate with the United States government to reduce the United States and Canadian passport fees. The number of American tourists visiting Canada is at its lowest level since 1972. It has fallen by five million visits in the last seven years alone, from 16 million in 2002 to only 11 million in 2009.

Passport fees for an American family of four can be over $500 U.S. While 50% of Canadians have passports, only 25% of Americans do.

At the recent Midwestern Legislators Conference of the Council and State Governments attended by myself and over 500 elected representatives from 11 border states and three provinces, the following resolution was passed unanimously. It reads:

RESOLVED, that the...Conference...calls on President Barack Obama and [the Canadian] Prime Minister...to immediately examine a reduced fee for passports to facilitate cross-border tourism; and be it further

RESOLVED, that [the Conference] encourage[s] the governments to examine the idea of a limited...two-for-one passport renewal or new application;

To be a fair process, passport fees must be reduced on both sides of the border. Therefore, the petitioners call upon the government to work with the American government to examine a mutual reduction in passport fees to facilitate tourism and to promote a limited time two-for-one passport renewal for renewed application fees on a mutual basis with the United States.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Before question period, the hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi had the floor. He still has 13 minutes left to conclude his remarks. The hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was saying in regard to Bill C-28 that there is a lot of spam and I defined what spam is. I have the pleasure now of putting all that in the current context because intrusions into people's private lives are nothing new. Companies and corporations tried for decades to sell their products through publications people received in the mail. That was an intrusion into our private lives but a fairly minor one in comparison with the spam we receive directly on our home computers. First of all, intrusive junk mail could be eliminated because there were ways of doing that and second, it amounted to only a small fraction of the mail we received, while the amount of spam we get can sometimes exceed the number of legitimate e-mails on our home computers.

Things certainly change over time. Back in the days when there were only postal deliveries, concern about intrusions into our private lives focused almost exclusively on government intrusions. We all remember such great novels as George Orwell’s 1984 and other similar works. Nowadays, intrusions come much more from the business world. This is a new threat. I did not say that the fear of government intrusion has disappeared, but it is just one of a number of possible intrusions into our private lives. There are some recent developments, such as Facebook. Concern about intrusions into our private lives is now greater than the fear of government intrusion. We are afraid of intrusions by our neighbours, friends, relatives and family. They can get right into our private lives. That shows just how fast things are changing.

And then there is the task force that I mentioned earlier. This task force was struck in 2004 and presented its report in 2005. A lot has changed since 2005, which is why I feel that the committee must work openly with a view to improving this bill. That type of openness is rarely found in legislation. We get the impression that this legislation will already be practically outdated if it is not updated. It is very important to keep in mind that computer usage evolves rapidly so that the legislation can be relevant and valid.

And coming back to that task force, it brought together Internet service providers—not just companies—electronic marketing experts, and government and consumer representatives. It was a broad-based group of people in the know. More than 60 groups from the sectors concerned took part and did an admirable job. I want to emphasize that. But this work absolutely must be put into the 2010-11 context because this evolution needs to be taken seriously.

In addition to the online anti-spam awareness campaign launched to provide users with tips on how to limit the amount of spam they receive, it should be mentioned that the task force on spam presented its final report to the Minister of Industry in May 2005.

The report was entitled Stopping Spam: Creating a Stronger, Safer Internet.

We need to create a stronger, safer Internet because it has become a vitally important economic tool. Simply prohibiting all economic communications and marketing through email is out of the question, because that would limit the freedom of those who want to receive such material. The bill must allow people to continue receiving emails of this nature if they so desire. People must be able to receive communications from a company or group of companies that they have clearly identified.

Consider for example the paper catalogues people receive. Personally, I have quite a bit of experience as a handyman. I receive very specialized catalogues in woodworking, which is a real passion of mine. When people receive them electronically, it means the companies have our permission to send them and solicit our business in that way. That is why we cannot simply eliminate all forms of commercial correspondence on the Internet. This legislation will be difficult to create and enforce. Consider the example of Facebook. People trusted it and posted things without thinking about the fact that neighbours and family could see into their private lives.

Using the same kind of procedures and programs on the computer, people could find ways around this legislation if it were too simple or simplistic. This legislation will have to be fine-tuned. That is why it is crucial that all the recommendations made in the report are included, even if they need to be tweaked later.

One of the recommendations had to do with proposed legislation and more vigorous enforcement measures. The report recommended drafting legislation to prohibit spam and to safeguard personal information and privacy as well as email, networks and computers, which, of course, can be made to crash.

The legislation is designed to allow individuals and companies to sue spammers. This applies not only to products, but also to services that people promote. Some might argue that people promote and advertise things on television and that this comes into our homes. That is true, but we can all choose not to watch television. If the Chamber of Notaries runs an ad to promote the need for notaries, then we just have to click a button if we do not want to see it. However, if we receive 10 or 15 pop-up ads that we cannot avoid and that take up space to announce that the Chamber of Notaries is the best in the world and that it is absolutely necessary, we might find that to be an invasion of privacy, and rightfully so.

The task force also recommended the creation of a centre of expertise on spam. The centre would coordinate the government's anti-spam initiatives. A new agency will have to be created. The centre would be responsible for coordinating policies, awareness campaigns and providing support to enforcement agencies. It would also receive complaints and compile statistics on spam.

It will be important to have a place where complaints could be lodged. Not all people who receive spam are capable of going after the company directly. The government will have to keep a record of the companies that send this type of message and take action directly.

The public awareness campaign I just mentioned is an interesting aspect. I do not think we could implement a modern or new law—spam has not been around for that long—without conducting a broad public awareness campaign. This campaign would also help businesses. There are small businesses that do not know and would not know that they cannot solicit business by email without running into problems. Awareness has to be raised on different levels. The campaign will have to address businesses that sell goods and services as well as the users. There are all sorts of users, including young children. Quite often, children aged 10 or 11 already have a laptop; if not a laptop, then an iPad or some other electronic gadget of that kind. They, too, can be inundated with email. We can see how quickly this is all evolving.

When this bill is studied in committee, the members will have to consider what is likely to happen in the near future. Because things change so quickly, the committee will not be able to consider what is going to happen in 10 years, but it could at least consider what is going to happen in the next few years.

The task force on spam also recommended establishing solid best practices for the industry, and it will be important to show that the industry can put an end to misleading information.

Lastly, there will have to be international co-operation and improved enforcement measures that are known around the world. France is an example of this. It passed legislation in 2004, but I would caution the committee that we cannot do what France did, because 2004 was a long time ago. The United States is perhaps more advanced. We need to look at this in an international context, and our law has to dovetail with other countries' legislation.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague spoke very well on this issue.

We have already filled up a significant amount of time in this Parliament dealing with this issue, and yet the government felt that this was such an unnecessary bill that it allowed it to be flushed along with all of last year's legislation. We are the only country in the G8 without anti-spam legislation.

The government continues to play out petty personal vendettas in the House of Commons. It has taken important legislation that we are seen on the international stage as having and that we need to have, and it flushes it down the political loo. Then we have to go through this whole process again.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague why he thinks it is that in this House of Commons, thanks to the government, it takes up to two years to debate something as simple and straightforward as spam. We should have had this bill done long ago, but we had to be prorogued to allow the government to escape whatever political heat it was feeling at the time.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question, which is almost the same as the one I asked a Conservative colleague this afternoon. I asked him why the government had taken so long to introduce this bill. Was it trying to dodge the issue? Are there business interests behind this, and is that why we are being kept in the dark about why we do not have a law like the one all the other G8 countries have passed, as my colleague said? Certainly there is something we are not being told. When the Conservatives do not do something, it is usually because a lobby is involved and economic interests are at stake.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured, as always, to rise in this august chamber and speak on behalf of the wonderful people of Timmins—James Bay who have sent me here to represent them.

I will say at the beginning that I have already spoken on this bill. I have already been through the entire rigmarole about this spam legislation and yet, like spam itself, it seems we never get anywhere with the government and its own legislation.

Last session we had a mere three bills actually get through the process. I do not think there has ever been such a pitiful output by any government in the history of this Parliament. Legislation that needs to be addressed is always deep-sixed for whatever are the needs of the PM's war room. In this case, all the work that was done on the anti-spam legislation had to be tossed aside and flushed so that the government could prorogue, because it was starting to feel heat about the Afghan detainees.

The government felt that people would not notice if it turned out the lights on the democratic institution of Canada. We know that the Canadian public was rightfully outraged at the government's decision to knock off work for three months in January and hope nobody would notice.

In doing that, millions of dollars in time spent in hearing testimony, in developing legislation and in debate was lost. So here we are again, dealing with the issue of spam.

I have watched the government for the last five years. It treats the House of Commons as a sideshow. The real work of the government is behind the scenes, in putting their buddies into key positions, in stripping and vandalizing the public institutions of Canada, like the long form census, and in stripping the tax codes so that its friends in big banks and big oil are getting massive breaks while we are going into deficit.

Whatever happens in this House, we have one crime bill after another that is waved out, and the government jumps up and down but it does not ever seem all that serious about actually coming through with anything. I think it is because there is a fundamental contempt for the important work of this House.

I think it is very clear when we see something like the anti-spam legislation. We are the only G8 country without anti-spam legislation. It would not be all that hard to move on it, and I think it would be very important to move on it.

We are not just talking about an inconvenience. We are not just talking about the fact that, on any given day, my personal email has all kinds of offers for Viagra and trips to the Cayman Islands and all kinds of dodgy email requests that I have to flush and erase.

We are talking about a new form of fraud that works on such sheer levels of numbers that they only need to have 1 in 10,000 or 1 in 100,000 respond. I am sure that back in the fax machine days, people used to receive the famous Nigerian 419 fraud letters. The frauds originally came out of Nigeria and are now centred in eastern Europe.

Back in the days when the old Nigerian 419 scam was being run, and I am sure everyone saw them, there would be a request from somebody trying to get money out of Sierra Leone, Nigeria or Serbia after the Bosnian war. The scammers would say they would transfer the money into an account set up by other people, and of course those people would have to put up a little bit of cash. That is when people got caught in the fraud.

The old 419 fraud actually took a little bit of effort, and it cost the fraudsters a fair amount of time. They had to work the fax machines. It was random, and it was not all that effective. However, the 419 frauds are internationally known as one of the largest international fraud schemes.

When that can be done through the Internet and when people can actually get control of third-party personal computers through spyware and then start multiplying the requests from hundreds to thousands to millions, a high return is not needed to actually have the phenomenal levels of fraud that are happening, because of the third-party control of computers that takes place. This needs to be dealt with.

I am not singling out senior citizens in particular, but I know a number of senior citizens who have been victims of Internet fraud. It is perhaps because they come from a time when there was more trust in how things were done. Now more bank frauds are taking place and people are sending emails with requests for credit card information, banking information. The Internet is a major source of fraud, so we should be moving ahead with this anti-spam legislation.

Anti-spam legislation should be seen as a part of a larger digital strategy. After four years, the Conservative government has started to learn these words. It says the words “digital strategy”, but when it comes to digital strategy, it is like the Commodore 64. It is not even in the game in terms of a digital strategy.

What would a digital strategy mean for a government that actually cared about moving forward on issues other than minimum sentences for furniture theft or whatever is the latest issue in the crazy crime agenda that it is trying to push?

We need a forward-looking government. The Conservatives have had five years to bring the WIPO treaty forward in the House, five years. That could have been done, and we would have set a number of international standards, for example, the “making available” right.

Canada would not be under pressure in terms of its copyright legislation if we had dealt with the WIPO treaty five years ago. We could have taken the time to institute a good consultation process on copyright. We had one copyright bill, which was widely ridiculed. It looked like a dog's breakfast when it was brought forward, and the Conservatives had to quickly retract it. Now we have another copyright bill. I would like to say I am hopeful, but I am not holding my breath as to whether the government is actually serious about coming through with a copyright bill before the next election. It will be problematic if they do not. There is a certain element of needing to be seen, on the international stage, to be actually taking this seriously.

If we were going to have a digital strategy dealing with the WIPO treaty, dealing with issues like digital locks and making sure not just that we are WIPO compliant but that we are not just foolhardy, the present government's plan with digital locks would actually lock down content unnecessarily and criminalize individuals who have legal rights. For example, librarians or blind people need to be able to access educational works through digital locks. They will be treated the same as an international counterfeiter under the Conservatives, not surprisingly of course because the Conservatives have a dumb-down approach on pretty much everything. A blind student will be treated the same as an international counterfeiter if he or she has to break a digital lock to access digital works.

The Conservatives do not get it on the issue of copyright. They do not get it on the fact that we should have had spam legislation already in the bag and moving forward.

We need a national broadband strategy. Every time the government gets 50 houses hooked onto fibre, government members get up and announce it as some kind of great success. When the Conservatives took office, Canada was the world leader. If we look at the FCC rankings for the OECD countries, Canada was a world leader in broadband penetration. We have fallen further and further behind in terms of cost, access and speed.

A riding like mine is the size of Great Britain. Right now large sections of my riding are still on dial-up. We might as well have crank phones. The government talks about a broadband strategy of 1.5 megabits per second. That is the Conservatives' idea of our being in the 21st century.

Under the labour government, Australia will hook up 93% of Australia. Australia is a good example because it, like Canada, has a small population spread out over a vast territory. Ninety-three per cent of Australia will be hooked up by fibre at a rate of 100 megabits a second. I would like members to think of our ability to compete at 1.5 megabits. The government might as well lock big cannonballs to our feet and tell us to start running. That is the Conservatives' idea of our competing, not to mention what we are going to be up against with Sweden, which is at gigabyte capacity. South Korea is the same.

Canada is being left behind because the Conservative government does not get it. The Conservatives do not want to get it. They believe, in their blind faith, that the free enterprise system will somehow do this for them.

As we have seen in the rural United States and as we are seeing now in Canada, unless we have a government partnership, there is no business case that can be made to hook up large rural regions. There will never be a business case. The only business case the government can make is to say that digital strategy is a national priority in terms of competition, in terms of cultural involvement, in terms of the fundamental civic rights of citizens in a digital age to be able to participate. That comes out of a government vision.

Australia, with the labour government, will hook up 93% at 100 megabits per second in national broadband and the other 7% will be hooked up by wireless so nobody will be left behind.

What we have right now is a government that is adrift, a government that has no plan, for example, for the digital transition in television.

If we look at how the United States government prepared for the transition for digital from analog to digital on television, it had a national plan. The government worked with its regions. It had advertisements. It had workshops in communities to prepare people.

We are about 10 months away from the big switch where the analog signals will go dead and we will switch over to digital. Have we seen anything from our august industry minister on this? Have we heard him say a word? Zero, nada. Perhaps if he spent a little less time running the pork barrel projects into his riding and a little more time on the need to have a national digital strategy, he would be prepared for the digital transition that is looming. Canada, quite frankly, will not meet that transition.

When the transition happens, at least 15% of the country will go black. People will start phoning the offices of members of Parliament saying that they cannot get their beloved Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night on television and they will want to know why. We will have to tell them that the government had years to prepare for the digital transition and did nothing. The Conservatives think this will magically be handled for them.

The other issue in terms of a broadband strategy and a digital strategy is the fact that as the analog signals are shut down for television and we move to digital, the analog spectrum, a very juicy chunk of cyber real estate, goes on the block to be sold. The analogue spectrum will be worth billions of dollars. Again, we would think a forward-looking government would consider this. It has a $56 billion in debt. It needs a national forward-looking plan not for next year or two years, but for the next 10 years. To finance that plan it could sell off the analogue spectrum, take those billions of dollars and commit them to a national broadband digital strategy. Then it could tell people that it was a forward-looking government.

We have not heard a peep from the current government about what it will do with the money. We have not heard how it will break up the analogue spectrum. Even the space between the various parts of the spectrum that used to be used for CTV, or CBC, or Canwest or the Quebec stations is valuable. We could put that to public use, for innovation, for new project ideas. We could reserve part of the analogue space that actually belongs to the people of Canada for innovation, for new ideas. There will be many new forms of communication that are on the verge of being discovered and having access to that spectrum band could put Canada in the lead, where we need to be. However, we are not seeing anything from the government on that.

We have to think about this. If the government had billions of dollars that should be spent to ensure Canada, rural Canada and northern Canada, could participate and compete against competitive countries that will go up to gigabyte-per-second download speeds, the analogue spectrum would be a great place to put that. However, what is the government going to do with that money? I have my own personal bets. I am not a gambling man and I am not offering to take anybody's money, but I think we would have to be quite the old backwoods route not to think what it is going to do with money. The government's forward-looking strategy could be to take the billions from the analogue spectrum and build prison cells.

The cost of building prisons under the government will be $270,000 per cell. The government does not even have people to put in them. It will just keep bringing up enough private members' bills to find new ways to arrest more Canadians to put them in prison.

We need a plan. Besides the government's ideological bizarre focus on blowing $10 billion on prisons at a time of the largest deficit in history, we have seen zero from the government in terms of a forward looking digital strategy.

I go back to the issue of spam. Spam should be a fairly straightforward issue to deal with. It is inconvenient. No one likes it except for the lobbyists who always talk to the government because hidden in spam is a lot of useless electronic sales ads that most of the Canadian public does not need. Nevertheless, even with the lobbyists, I am sure we could deal with the spam. The question is this. Where is the vision?

The government brought forward spam legislation. The House debated it. We went through the whole process and the government decided it was more convenient to take all that legislation, flush it down the political loo and suspend the democratic work of the House. It shut everything down and laid waste to its whole legislative agenda. It set the clock back to zero, which is not the first time it has done it. It is something that the government does on a regular basis. Whenever it seems to get bored with almost succeeding and actually getting something done, it seems to get restless.

The government cannot go forward, so it is stuck in the bills it has and it erases them all and it starts all over. We are now in October 2010 and we remain the only country without spam legislation.

I have been saying how the government does not like to move on anything unless it is part of its ideological agenda. It has no forward thinking vision in terms of copyright and balancing the needs in terms of an innovative agenda on issues like net neutrality, open source and open data, issues that could really excite the Canadian public to move forward.

In all fairness I have seen it move dramatically once or twice in terms of where its agenda is going usually in protecting the tar sands or protecting ideological hacks who are working and supporting the party.

At the Copenhagen conference back in December 2009, Canada was once again embarrassed on the international stage by our horrific standards on the environment. The government would say that it was a principled stand, just like I am sure Harold Ballard thought that the Leafs losing every year was a principled stand.

In the Copenhagen Conference there was a group called the “Yes Men”. The Yes Men are international political pranksters who set up a fake website. That fake website said that Canada would reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 by 40% from 1990 levels and they would be down to 80% by the year 2050. Of course that was a total fraud. Canada was not going to do that. However, they were trying to make a political statement about the Conservative government's defence of the tar sands and how it embarrassed us politically.

The Canadian government moved against that website immediately. It went after the ISP in another jurisdiction and it ended up shutting down 4,500 websites because the government did not want to be challenged internationally on the tar sands. I think even red China would be awe struck by the willingness of the government to shut down democratic sites because it does not like what they have to say.

The government will do nothing about the fact that we have international fraudsters on the spam, but it will shut down democratic websites. The government has failed again and it will continue to fail on the international innovative agenda.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member hit a very solid topic in dealing with the lack of the broadband strategy from the government.

I note that the violations are not criminal offences under the bill. Recently we had a situation where Facebook had a judgment against a Canadian spammer for I believe $1 billion. All the spammer did was declare bankruptcy and got out of the problem.

If we pass bills like this that simply offer a fine, in essence, and if the spammer simply declares bankruptcy, then what have we really accomplished? Perhaps a threat of jail time might have a better effect in forcing spammers to pay attention. I only say that on the basis of what happened recently with that court case.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague raises an excellent point. Again, when we are dealing with spam, we are not just dealing with irritating emails we have to spend a lot of time flushing. The fact it does intervene and impedes competitiveness and the ability of businesses to work, it has also become very much tied to cases of international fraud on a massive scale through the use of phishing to the taking over of third party computers.

If we do not have some real and clear punishments for shutting down spam sites, then Canada will continue to be seen as a spam haven. Under the Conservative government, any spam artist in the world knows that the worst he or she will get is a slap on the wrist and a peck on the cheek. The government is more willing to go after 15-year-old punks in Winnipeg and other cities, but international spammers seem to be welcome. The government does not seem to get it when it comes to the importance of dealing with spam and sending a message to spam artists.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague enlightened a number of us in regard to this situation. I was quite taken with his discussion in regard to the democratic protest by the group protesting the tar sands. It reminded me of the government shutting down people like Pat Stogran, the ombudsman for veterans, and Richard Colvin who wanted justice and blew the whistle in regard to Afghan detainees.

I think about democracy and the peril that democracy has faced with the government. Could the member comment on the impact of those 4,500 legitimate websites that were closed down and what does that say about the state of our democracy?

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, it has become a very clear pattern of how the government will use the levers of power for personal vendettas to attack and attempt to destroy the reputation of critics. It is becoming very disturbing.

The incident that happened during the Copenhagen conference almost slipped by without any real public comment because the media were not paying attention. Government members were getting embarrassed, as they should, by their horrific stand on the tar sands and lack of international commitments, a situation that has obviously come back and bit them with their humiliating vote last week at the UN. However, they went after an ISP provider, serverloft, which responded because the Canadian government told it to shut down sites immediately. In order to do that, it had to interfere with a wide block of ISP server addresses and shut down 4,500 websites of people who were putting up legitimate products and information. It could have been educational resources. These people had their democratic ability to participate in a digital realm interfered with and monkey-wrenched by a government that panicked, was embarrassed and could not seem to deal with any kind of parody from the Yes Men, who are very funny international political comedians.

I would challenge the government. If it believes it can get away with shutting down 4,500 web addresses, then why is it not spending more time with the dictators in Burma and more time with China? It is not sending any kind of message in terms of democratic commitment in a digital age if it will use the levers of government to shut down 4,500 websites in order to get at two hoaxers making fun and making a very fair political parody of the government.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his great speech. He talked about the shutting down of 4,500 websites. It makes me wonder as to why it would take so long to introduce the legislation we see here, when we know that phishing, for example, is soliciting information from the most vulnerable on the Internet, those who may be seniors and not necessarily astute in the way to deal with some of these issues. They might be giving out their credit card information or other personal information.

Specifically in northern Ontario, PhoneBusters is dealing with so many scams that seniors are encountering. Is there anything else that should be in this bill to ensure that we can protect those who are using the Internet?

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague asked an excellent question. Clearly, from his work in terms of trying to protect consumer interests, he has come to see a pattern, which is that the Conservatives are all talk when it comes to protecting individuals, but they draw up a big zero when it comes to serious issues such as, for example, credit cards and credit card fees, and companies that rip off people, especially senior citizens and people on fixed incomes.

Regarding the issue of this spam bill, this bill should have been law a year ago and we are not even there yet. The government seems to be intent on watering down the bill. After having made the announcement that it was going to do something about spam, I think it felt a bit of push-back from its corporate lobbyists and backers, basically the people in the back rooms who pretty much write the ticket for the government.

We are still seeing huge problems with the issue of phishing. People's personal information is being fraudulently garnered on a large scale. Our senior citizens especially are increasingly vulnerable to this. They are being ripped off and have no place to turn. We do not see a government ombudsman out there protecting senior citizens from credit card fraud. Their information is being stolen on the net and they are being left to fend for themselves against some very large international players, players who can hardly even be tracked down. Because of their practice of taking over third-party computers, they could be in any jurisdiction in the world. Canada obviously needs to play a larger international role.

Canada is certainly embarrassing itself on the international stage. I do not see that the government is very focused on the international role right now.

There needs to be a serious criminal law element and there need to be resources. We can bring in all the criminal laws we want but there need to be resources to ensure that the fraud squads have power. They have to be able to keep up with their criminal competition. Every single day that we are in this House debating, they are actually evolving, changing and covering their tracks.

Senior citizens, people on fixed incomes, people who are open to fraud are left to fend for themselves. The government has left a very large hole.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise on this bill, which is now Bill C-28 and was Bill C-27. As has been indicated before, it has been a very long time getting to this point, in fact, several Parliaments and elections, to the point where Canada is pretty much last in the line of modern developed countries that have such legislation.

I listened very carefully to what the member for Timmins—James Bay had to say. He talked about the lack of a broadband strategy on the part of the government and he is absolutely correct. There are many things the current government could have been doing. There are many things that the former Liberal government was doing when John Manley was industry minister.

There are a lot of innovative ideas in the marketplace. For example, a few years ago it was discovered that school boards, some in the United States, were able to set up dark fibre co-ops. In the past the school boards had been under contract with the telcos and were leasing their broadband from the phone companies. They turned the whole relationship upside down. By the school boards doing their own dark fibre builds, they were able to offer gigabyte Internet access and they sold space to the very telcos that they had been leasing from before.

There is nothing difficult about this. The reality is that the fibre can be laid out on the ground or it can be put through the air or through trenches. Trenching is the most expensive way of laying dark fibre.

In rural communities, for example the community of Churchill in my home province, the government does not have any difficulty because the government has crown lands to work with and rights of way at its disposal. A government that is interested in taking the bull by the horns can mandate in very short order that dark fibre be laid over crown land through pipes that the provinces own. It does not have to make the type of effort that private industry has to.

When a private telco wants to lay fibre, it has to negotiate with the landowners. It has to negotiate rights of way. It is a very involved process. The government has none of that to contend with.

Unfortunately, what has happened in this country is that over the years governments have bowed to the pressure of the telcos that want the good customers. As soon as the government tries to develop a proper broadband strategy, the telcos knock on its door and say that the government cannot do that because it is against the principles of free enterprise. The telcos want the right to offer this service in cities and urban centres where they can run the final mile very cheaply to people's homes. They want to be able to offer that to residents and to control the pipes to the hospitals and schools so they can make tons of money, but they do not want to do it in rural areas. They do not want to do it in the north.

That is the conundrum that governments have faced. While they could have taken charge in a more determined way, they have tended to piece off the private companies within their jurisdictions. They have allowed telcos to take some good sections and then the governments are stuck with the less profitable areas.

Even so, I still say that all is not lost. Fibre is cheap. Fibre is not expensive and is easy to build. We had four or five examples of co-ops and school boards in the United States that developed their own fibre. They took the cost of the fibre, turned it around and not only leased out their extra capacity but they still had enough capacity in their system to fulfill their own needs for free and at much faster rates.

What will happen when the final mile is completed and the thick fibre exists, rural hospitals, for example, will be connected. The last time I toured Brandon Hospital, which is in a city of about 50,000 people in my province, it was still sending the electronic imaging for medical tests by bus to one of the smaller hospitals in Neepawa, which I believe is the closest hospital. That should not be the case. Once we have a proper broadband strategy, those images will be sent electronically, rather than being put in a can and sent on a bus to another hospital. They will be able to be sent electronically to the hospital. That is what we are talking about here.

That is what the member for Timmins—James Bay was alluding to when he talked about the broadband strategy that we do not see the government making efforts toward. I am not a big fan of the previous Liberal government but when it comes to issues like broadband, at least there was a pulse in that government. We do not hear anything from the current government.

Let us take a look at the whole area of government online programs. Ten years ago, in 1999, the prime ministers of Great Britain and Australia would put their vision statements on a website indicating where they saw government online programs rolling out and developing over the next 10 years.

I remember putting a resolution before the Manitoba legislature that government programs should be online by the year 2010 and that they should be transactional. It was recognized that there was no point in putting all government information online. There would be tons of information online, some usable, some not, but the true goal was to offer government services on a transactional basis. For example, a student applying for student aid or a student loan would not have to ride the bus from Sudbury to Toronto, for example, to have the privilege of standing in line at a government office to fill out an application.

There was a student aid online program set up in Manitoba, probably 10 years ago, which worked from the very beginning. It worked from the very beginning because it was a low-hanging fruit that dealt with youth. If it had been a program for senior citizens who were less inclined to use computers, it might not have worked so well. However, it worked very well because we were dealing with people who understand computers, who have worked with computers in their daily lives and in school settings since they started school. It was natural for the government to put student aid online. That is an example of a program that worked very well.

Those sorts of programs should have been replicated right across all jurisdictions. We should not be offering them in one province and not in another. The provinces had to get together to talk about whether they could share these programs. I have always said that the national government, rather than individual governments, should pay for one national computer program to be used in all the hospitals across the country. We had software developers in my own province getting a grant from one arm of the government, the Department of Industry, to develop a software program and then turn around and sell it to individual hospitals. The taxpayers had the privilege of paying for a certain software program that was already paid for in part by the taxpayers through one arm of the government to pay multiple times as each hospital bought the program.

That made no sense at all to me. Where was the direction and leadership of the government. There were some signs under the latter part of the Paul Martin government that it was showing some interest in developing programs that could be used on a national basis.

We did encourage the provinces to get together and exchange programs, which worked to a certain extent, but it fell down because of the silo effect. People in their own little silos in their own parts of the government refused to co-operate with anyone else. We would hear arguments that it was contrary to the legislation, that it would need to alter it to the legislation in its jurisdiction or that it did not meet its capacities.

However, there were these off the shelf programs. For example, the Securities Commission in Alberta had a program that Manitoba could simply adapt because it was exactly what it needed. However, we found a lot of silo thinking where people would say that was specialized for Alberta and that they needed to have their own made in Manitoba.

In many ways we find ourselves working against ourselves and perhaps that is why the system is not as advanced at it should be.

A few minutes ago my colleague mentioned consumer legislation. In 2002 in Manitoba, we put together bill 31. I was asked to be the coordinator of it. We had to pull in all the people from four or five departments and we had that typical silo problem. Before we got them together in one room, we heard all the reasons that it could not be done or could never be done. We called them together in one room and asked them what their problems were. In a group environment they did not have a problem.

Therefore, we proceeded with a very big omnibus bill. As a matter of fact, it was designed and crafted under the Uniform Law Conference of Canada suggested wordings and it was the most comprehensive of its type in Canada at the time.

One of the things that got the bill moving a lot quicker was the idea of putting in some consumer legislation. We discovered that there were between one and four states in the United States that had laws that said that if people did not receive their product or service that they ordered on line that the credit card companies would be held responsible to reimburse them. That sounded very intriguing. That was 10 years ago. That was at a time when Internet commerce was still in its infancy and we were trying to encourage it in Manitoba. However, we did not want people to be afraid of it and think that somehow if they bought something on line and they did not get it they would be out their money and would not know how to retrieve it.

In bill 31, we made the credit card companies responsible for any Manitoban's purchases online and if they did not receive the product or the service, the credit card company would be responsible.

Can anyone guess what happened? We went to committee and we heard from the credit card companies. Some of them were not too happy about this but Visa, which is a very big organization, did not put up that much of a fight.

We put forward that particular piece of consumer-friendly legislation and we put forward other pieces of consumer legislation but the reason we brought in this legislation in the first place was to streamline the government and make it more efficient.

We were trying to use the common business identifier. In the old days, the federal government and the provinces were using their own business numbers. We had situations in provincial governments where people were not even paying their PST or GST to the government and, in fact, were in receipt of grants from other parts of the government. This was an intolerable situation and it is something that should never happen.

Therefore, by having a common business identifier and a centralized computing system, we were able to tell if a person had applied for a grant from a certain department and whether the person was in arrears on his or her PST or whether the person owed the taxpayers all sorts of money that he or she had not paid back through taxes. We were trying to put a stop to that. We were also trying to make the system easier to use for businesses so they could file their returns. We were cutting down the paperwork involved in business.

The Conservatives just love to talk about red tape. One of the first things Conservative politicians love to talk for hours about is reducing red tape. The former member for Portage--La Prairie, who was in this House for several years, made his career on cutting red tape in the Manitoba legislature. He also made his career on eliminating the pension plan in the Manitoba legislative assembly. I can tell the House that it was not a very happy group of former MLAs when he moved to the federal scene and proceeded to collect his own federal pension when they in fact had lost their own, but that is an aside.

Nevertheless, the legislation before us today is long overdue. As a matter of fact, we have a danger here that this legislation will need to be re-tweaked. As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech in response to some comments by the member for Timmins—James Bay, nothing in this bill involves any criminality.

We just had a case in the last two weeks where Facebook got a judgment against a Canadian guy for $1 billion. He did a huge amount of spamming on the Facebook system and has made a hero out of himself by getting all kinds of free publicity around the world. What has he done? He has simply declared bankruptcy. We could go to all this trouble of finally passing this bill after all these years and find out that it is totally ineffective when we have people running huge spamming operations in this country right under the noses of the authorities and then, when they finally do end up in court and get sued, they just simply declare bankruptcy and are gone or simply change countries.

Clearly, if we are passing legislation now, we should ensure there are enough penalties in here that will make people responsible and try to correct the behaviours that we are seeing.

However, as we indicated, there are bigger issues. This is an important issue and we need to deal with it, but the member for Timmins—James Bay talked about the other areas, such as the broadband strategy that is lacking from the government. The vision on broadband is very vital to this country and especially to the survival and development of rural Canada. There is also the whole issue of government online programs, which we hear nothing about from the government.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Yukon, Offshore Drilling.

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Sudbury.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague talked about consumer protection. It is important to note that some good electronic commerce does take place on the Internet. Businesses use it effectively for advertising their services and consumers use the electronic commerce medium and will continue to do so. He also talked about the history when he was in Manitoba as an MLA and what they did to implement it there.

Under this bill, I know there will be some regulations that could take away some of the offensive issues of electronic commerce. Individuals would be penalized and private action could take place as well, which is another strong point of this bill.

On the consumer protection piece that we have talked about, does the hon. member feel that there is enough protection in place for the consumers? With his experience, what type of penalties would be fair to ensure we can protect Canadians?

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have always been amazed that governments do not see open opportunities to bring in consumer legislation, particularly when governments are looking to be relevant to their voters and populace. Consumer legislation is the type of legislation that costs the government nothing. We cannot get better results than bringing in consumer legislation that costs the government nothing, makes it look good, and not only protects the consumers but also protects business.

Business organizations tell us that they want to see regulation. Business want to compete with one another but they want to compete on a reasonable level playing field and they want some rules in place. They want to know what the rules are before they spend a lot of money developing their business plans.

If we allow spammers to come in and do whatever they want anytime they want without any sort of penalty, businesses will not be agreeable to that. Whatever we do, we need to have the same rules for everybody, but consumer legislation is something the government does not seem to pay a lot of attention to.

I know the member has introduced a lot of legislation dealing with consumer-type activities and I encourage him to continue doing that but expecting results from the government is something that maybe we should not have too high hopes about.